Understanding Contract Costs in Audits of Contractors

Understanding Contract Costs in Audits of Contractors

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By Brett Sinsabaugh, Business Assurance & Advisory Services Supervisor | Real Estate & Construction Team

A detailed understanding of contract costs for contractors is important for effective contract management and job valuation.  Understanding contract costs also enhances internal financial recordkeeping and external financial reporting.  Financial statement end users such as commercial banks, sureties, and management rely on contractor audited financial statements to make key business decisions based on underlying costs.


Common Types of Costs (301, PPC)

Direct costs.
Direct contract costs are identifiable costs that relate directly to a construction job.  Common costs include material, labor, and subcontractor costs.

Indirect costs.
Indirect costs are those costs not solely applicable to a certain job but must be allocated to an individual contract or job.  Overhead is a common indirect cost for construction contracts.  Other common indirect costs include supervision, safety costs, equipment, indirect labor, supplies, and depreciation.  The Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) states that indirect costs should be allocated by a systematic and rational method.  Common allocation methods include those “based on direct labor costs, direct labor hours, or a combination of direct labor and material costs” (FASB).

Construction period interest.
Construction period interest is a product of financing on construction projects and is the interest on such debt.

Precontract costs.
Precontract or preconstruction costs are construction costs that are incurred prior to the start of the contract or for anticipated future costs.  FASB has specific guidelines for evaluating these costs and the appropriate accounting treatment for such criteria.  Common preconstruction costs include:

  • Equipment, supplies, and material costs
  • Architectural costs
  • Engineering costs,
  • Other start-up costs incurred in anticipation of contracts


Liquidated Damages

Another important contract related item when understanding contract costs is liquidated damages.  Liquidated damages are essentially penalties due to delays or not meeting a deadline as specified in the contract.  These damages are nonexclusive to contractors as they may apply to owners as well.  Per PPC, such owner delays “can result in additional costs to the contractor for such items as nonproductive workers and supervisors, additional overhead, and costs associated with starting and stopping work” (203.25, PPC).  When reviewing liquidated damages, it’s important to include these amounts in estimated costs to complete while valuating contracts in progress.  Incurred and expected costs must be understood and included in estimated costs to complete, as well as their impact on job profitability (304.28, PPC).

To ensure proper contract profitability, a strong understanding on contract costs must be achieved.   For more information regarding contract costs for contractors as well as their impact financial statements, please contact a Business Assurance and Advisory member of the Keiter Real Estate and Construction Industry team or information@keitercpa.com | 804.747.0000.


  • “203 Important Contract Clauses:  Construction Contractors.”  Thomson Reuters/PPC.
  • “301 GAAP for Construction Contractors.”  Thomson Reuters/PPC.
  • “304 Revenue Recognition Methods.”  Thomson Reuters/PPC.
  • FASB ASC 605-35-25-37


Brent Sinsabaugh, Keiter
Brett’s client focus is primarily in the real estate and construction industry.  Brett is a member of the Firm’s Real Estate and Construction industry team. Brett received his Bachelor of Arts from Christopher Newport University and received his post baccalaureate certificate in Accounting from Virginia Commonwealth University. Read more of Brett’s accounting insights here.

About the Author

Keiter CPAs is a certified public accounting firm serving the audittax, accounting and consulting needs of businesses and their owners located in Richmond and across Virginia. We focus on serving emerging growth businesses and companies in the financial servicesconstructionreal estatemanufacturingretail & distribution industries and nonprofits. We also provide business valuations and forensic accounting servicesfamily office services, and inbound international services.

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The information contained within this article is provided for informational purposes only and is current as of the date published. Online readers are advised not to act upon this information without seeking the service of a professional accountant, as this article is not a substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice from a professional accountant.


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